3:15 a.m., her street in your shared city
Drive to her house, the letter you wrote resting on the passenger seat, a white envelope with her name scrawled on it in black sharpie, neater penmanship than you’d normally ever be able to do. Look to your right, at it, when you hit every stop sign and light along the way, reliving the earnestness you scribbled two days ago on the loose leaf inside.
How you won’t be able to handle her going. How, even though you met only weeks ago, just learned who she was, you know she’ll be forever in your life, someone who matters in that way certain ones always will. You know the ones, you know she’s one.
Park a little more than a block away, close enough to see her house, but far, you think, enough that she won’t be able to see you if she came outside. Light a cigarette and think about what leaving this letter will leave you with. How she’ll say it was sweet, but that this, it didn’t mean anything. It was a fling, a fling from the start, always nothing more. I’m sorry if you thought it wasn’t. But that’s all this was. The dates that lasted hours, the times you skipped work to be together, waltzing through the zoo or sitting at bars, the rest of the world doing whatever it is that they do. The time on her carpet, the very first night, when you found out she was leaving, when you did nothing but stare at her smile, never wanting to look away for fear you might never see it again.
Be afraid, in you car, to feel that there’s something you know you can and should believe in.
Drive away. Never talk to her again.
. . .
My latest, most recent whatever with a girl ended somewhere between our sixth and eighth dates, when I realized I should never see her again. She was great – I took her to meet my friends twicen– and I guess I liked her, at least enough to have wanted to see her again. Yet we were getting to that junction wherein it would become a something if I didn’t do something, so of course I did. I ended it. She was great. Things were easy, comfortable. Maybe that was the problem.
. . .
1:45 a.m., her cul-de-sac in your suburban Virginia town
Sit in your car and watch as she cries on your prom night, as she tells you all the things you’ve done wrong. In that speech is also all the things you need to do to keep her, but you aren’t listening. Be a little better, probably. Kinder to her, maybe. Care for her like you once did. She’s trying to pack it all in, through tears, outside her parents’ house before needs to be inside to make her 2:00 a.m. curfew. You’re thinking about that, too, how you want her to go because it means you can leave, get back with your friends and get fucked up, instead of staying sober like you did earlier to drive her home. So tell her dismissively that she’s young. She’ll believe it because she is, two years below you, and that she doesn’t get it.
Tell her maybe one day she will, when she leaves for college.
She’ll ask you to your face why you’ve changed, why things aren’t the same as the summer before, the summer you met, when all you wanted to do was be with her. Don’t give her an answer, because it’s easier not to. Because it feels safer to leave her in limbo, because you don’t know which forever you want. Remember, regardless, how right she is. How you went out two days after your first date. How after your fourth you left the country for five, and you didn’t know that was possible until you met her. To miss someone so much. To hurt from it. To have that feeling.
Over the next two months, before you leave, lie, feign and pretend. To her face, to her friends, to yourself. Say shit like you love her, but that you need a break. Say you want to be free from her, but also that you can’t imagine life apart. Be 18 and treat her like shit.
Get head your second day of school, but tell her you miss her on the phone over the next few months, until she’s the one who has to say it, who has to be the one who ends it. Look foolish when it hits you, weeks later, when you realize she’s never coming back. Ask. Plead. Cry. Beg.
Spend the rest of your life hoping she does.
. . .
The last time I lived in the same city as a girlfriend was June of 2007 and I was 23 and now I’m 32. Since that summer the year before, I’ve never made it to a point with another one where we’ve signified that what we had meant something to one another. I’ve gotten close. With a lot. But it all ends the same. I do have a type and my type is my exes, not how they looked or how they talked or who they were, but how I knew it would end. Miserably. Shit happens when don’t realize you have a rigid type. Now I don’t even bother. That’s not true. I like trying, like giving off the same right signs that this is what I want. Stay the night. Make them breakfast in their apartments. Bring them gifts that I picked up on from conversations, you know, the kind that makes them think “He thinks about me.” Give them no inclination I feel otherwise, as the need to stop builds inside me, until the moment it’s time.
I say can’t. It’s true, I can see how bad it will get, and I don’t want to do that. That’s all I can only see with anyone. How bad it will get.
. . .
7:45 p.m., her duplex in your small college town
Drive to her house after she texts you she doesn’t want to do this anymore. After your biggest fight of your short relationship, after a day long affair of shouting and screaming that happened to happen the first time she met your family. Watch as your sisters ask in disbelief why you’re leaving them alone in your apartment, to go see someone who’d just done all that. After she almost got you arrested, then texted and gave you an out.
Realize they don’t understand, they won’t, how, you, you want this. How you’ve had all these years of hurting and wanting, wanting someone so right and so great and so perfect, and how, now, now that you’ve finally found that one, you aren’t going to give it up just because she isn’t any of those things.
They won’t understand that.
Park your car and knock on her door. Fall on her bed, on her sherbet bright comforter. Bury your face in the pillows, and with tears flowing down, ask if she really likes you.
Spend the next three years with her, chasing that answer every single day. You’ll go to separate places and tease each other for what feels like forever. Live thousands of miles apart and refuse to call for months, before breaking down and dialing and saying you love her. Tell her you’ll visit tomorrow and go. Find out there were times she didn’t even call you when she came into your town. Forget you ever loved her. Want her more than ever. Watch for years as she torments you with others, listen patiently as she tells you again and again that she’s wants to move on. Be hurt for so so long, and when you finally leave, remember that night in her bedroom and how you didn’t look her in the eye when she answered because you didn’t care if she was lying.
. . .
It’s not that I don’t want to find the right person. It’s just that … I don’t think I should. I don’t have a lot of hopes that, even they were the right one, it would be good.
. . .
8:15 a.m., her bedroom, your junior of high school
Skip your physics final to spend the morning in bed with her. The next day, tell her you don’t want to be with her anymore.
Fall in love with her at 15, whatever that may mean at that age. Grow obsessed sometime around 16. Get her, at 17, after those years of trying. After forever of putting flowers on her car and leaving notes in her locker and surprising her at the airport. Kiss her one night in April after you tell her you can’t take it anymore, after years of wanting to do exactly that. Get her and immediately lose interest. Never understand what you wanted in the first place. To be wanted, maybe by her, maybe by anyone. Leave her stunned, furious, that morning, then fuck with her maliciously for years after. The summers, three and four years later when you are both home from college. Hook up in cars and tell her you missed her. Ignore her calls. After you graduate, meet and walk around town. Maybe don’t speak to her after. Keep it up for so long. Try you’re fucking damnedest to do whatever it is you’re trying to do.
Finally get to a point where you think you’ve got things right. Where you’re mature. See her several times, real dates, but also more, something intangible, and make it clear to her that this makes sense.
Be at a bar when texts you to come over, when she tells you to do it now, with an urgency that you know is real. That’s what she’s asking you. To let her know it’s real.
Never write back.